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Lever Machines Don’t Have To Be Replaced – EAC

Lever Machines Don’t Have To Be Replaced According to The EAC

From John Gideon
28 August 2005

Since the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) was signed into law by the President, statements have been made by Secretaries of State, state elections officials, national organizations, and voting machine vendors all saying the same thing: “HAVA mandates that all lever and punch-card voting machines must be replaced by modern electronic voting systems.”

Many voting activists have pointed out that HAVA does not make those mandates. In fact, HAVA clearly gives allowances to those states or counties who want to keep their older voting systems. In the case of punch-card systems, counties only need to provide a means for disabled voters to vote in privacy, forego Title One funds, and begin a voter education program to cut down on the number of over votes that might occur. The states ignored the evidence in the HAVA text itself, as well as the voices of the voting activists.

Now, three years after HAVA was signed into law and after many states have already made their decisions and replaced their punch-cards or lever machines, the Elections Assistance Commission has made a statement showing that the voting activists were correct all the time. Lever machines do not have to be replaced. Punch-cards do not have to be replaced.

In an article printed in papers in Pennsylvania, where there are many counties with lever voting machines, many of which do not want to change their mode of voting, Jeannie Layson, spokeswoman for the Election Assistance Commission, said “states must require that the disabled have the ability to vote, and that machines meet certain auditing and accuracy requirements. But there's nothing in the act saying that decades-old lever voting machines must go, she said; that's a decision for the states to decide.”

Counties have, for the past two years, been told by their state elections officials that the federal government has mandated that their old voting machines can no longer be used. Many counties love their punch-card voting systems. They maintained the equipment, unlike some counties in Florida, and had very low over-vote rates; far lower than what we have seen from many electronic voting machines used in recent elections. Most of these counties have, in some cases grudgingly, complied with what they thought was a federal mandate. They bowed to the wishes of their state officials and scrapped their old systems for nice new, shiny electronic voting machines.

Much of the funding came from the federal government. However, counties have had to dig into their bank accounts to help pay for the cost of the new machines. They have also found that storage for the electronic machines is not cheap as they take space, need climate controlled storage, and require full time electrical power for their battery back-ups to stay charged. This extra expense has come as a shock to local elections officials who have had to get the money from other sources including tax increases, levies, abandoning other plans for taxpayers' money, and consolidating polling places to cut the costs.

The members of the Elections Assistance Commission cannot be so insulated from what is happening around the country that they didn’t know that newspapers are constantly mis-reporting that there is a mandate that counties must replace their older voting systems. This new statement from the EAC comes too late for New Yorkers, who wanted to keep their lever machines and struggled mightily to do so. Did the EAC just ignore what was happening in New York? Why did not Jeannie Layson, or someone else from the EAC, speak-up months ago before the New York legislature made a decision to force the replacement of a system they wanted to keep?

Today’s report is shocking. Not the content but the fact that it was made as late as it was. Billions of dollars of taxpayers' money has now been spent and will be spent in the future. Much of that money could have been better spent on schools, health-care, parks, and other local government issues.

The EAC has failed in its primary mission ­ to guide the states as they implemented HAVA requirements. Their guidance was too little and far too late. Let’s hope they do better in the future than they have done in the past.


John Gideon
Information Manager and

VotersUnite! is a national non-partisan organization dedicated to fair and accurate elections. It focuses on distributing well-researched information to elections officials, elected officials, the media, and the public; as well as providing activists with information they need to work toward transparent elections in their communities.

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